Newport is among the oldest communities in Delaware, tracing its roots to the early colonial days of the Country. Since its inception, Newport has been a crossroad of commerce for the State. The “Old Kings Road”, which traveled from Philadelphia to Baltimore, ran through the lands where Newport now stands.
In 1735, John Justis (Justis Street) purchased 100 acres of land from a Maryland Landholder in order to build a town for business purposes. Justis saw the potential for trade in this area, which bordered on the Christiana Creek and thus was already in use for shipping grains and other materials.
In 1735, Samuel Marshall purchased 18 acres from Justis and laid out lots for sale. This first “town plan” marks the founding what was to become Newport. Many of the street names created during the early development are still in use today, including Ayre Street, Augustine Street, John Street and James Street.
By the late 1700′s, Newport had developed into a bustling port town, with warehouses and wharves built along the shores of Christiana Creek. The primary trade commodities were grain, flour and crops grown on farms in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Newport’s location as a stage coach (relay) stop along Kings Highway made the Town an important commercial hub for the young nation. Under the newly created United States Postal Service, Town resident Wm. Robeson was commissioned Newport Postmaster in 1792 and oversaw the creation of one of the first Post Offices in the United States in March 1793. The location of this structure is generally believed to be the corner of James and Market Streets in downtown Newport.
Newport continued to thrive as a commercial center into the early 1800′s. In 1818, the Newport-Gap Pike (toll road) was constructed, which attracted significant commercial development to the area.
Newport’s seaborne growth continued until the mid-1800′s, when the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Rail Road Company extended its tracks through the Town. As rail service surpassed shipping for the transport of freight, Newport began to see a decline in its (port-oriented) industry.
In order to maintain a thriving economy, Newport was forced to change its commercial focus. By the latter part of the 1800s, the Town’s industry had shifted to tanning and fertilizer production, thus keeping pace with the changing mode of cargo transportation.
This period saw the establishment of a significant mercantile sector in Newport, with the addition of the Newport National Bank, five (5) general stores, six (6) taverns and other commercial operations.
Newport was incorporated as a Town on April 17, 1873. The Town was formed as a Commission form of government, with five (5) Commissioners elected at large. This form of government remains in place today.
By the 1900′s, northern Delaware had joined the Industrial Revolution, led by the Du Pont Company. Newport participated in the State’s burgeoning chemical industry when, in 1908, Henrik J. Krebs built a chemical and pigment plant along Christiana Creek.